ANS Nuclear Cafe

The ANS Nuclear Cafe is a blog owned and edited by the American Nuclear Society. Information contained on the ANS Nuclear Cafe has been provided by numerous sources. Therefore, the American Nuclear Society assumes no responsibility or liability for the accuracy of information contained herein. DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in posted articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Nuclear Society. The views expressed here are those of the individual authors. ANS takes no ownership of their views. The American Nuclear Society assumes no responsibility or liability for any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained on this site.

Nuclear law experts offer reasons for optimism

January 20, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

In a January 14 "Nuclear Industry Recap of 2020" blog post, attorneys Sachin Desai and Amy C. Roma list some of the actions taken by the federal government over the past 12 months to improve the status of the U.S. nuclear community.

Desai and Roma, both of whom practice nuclear and radioactive materials law at Hogan Lovells, look at actions by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and Congress and find much to be optimistic about.

Slaybaugh named to lead Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road

January 20, 2021, 6:57AMANS Nuclear Cafe


The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently named Rachel Slaybaugh, ANS member since 2003 and associate professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California–Berkeley, to lead the lab’s Cyclotron Road Division.

Get to know her: Prior to coming to Berkeley, Slaybaugh served as a program director for the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), whose mission is to advance high-potential and high-impact energy technologies. From 2017 through 2020 at ARPA-E, Slaybaugh led programs supporting research in advanced nuclear fission reactors, agriculture technologies, and sensing and data analytics for four years.

Wisconsin professor hosts podcast series on nuclear science

January 19, 2021, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe


Shelly Lesher, a University of Wisconsin-La Crosse professor, is hosting the My Nuclear Life podcast series centered on how nuclear science is perceived in the community, La Crosse television station WXOW reported.

My Nuclear Life explores the intersection of nuclear science and society. Lesher, a 2020 American Physical Society Fellow, covers a range of topics, from the use of radium therapy for treating cancer to the U.S. environmental movement.

DOE lists five stories to watch in 2021

January 19, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Despite all the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. nuclear energy community pulled out some big wins in 2020, and this year could be even bigger, according to the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

From deep space exploration on Mars to a historic new reactor coming online in Waynesboro, Ga., 2021 will be a record-breaking year for the industry—both good and potentially bad.

Find the full details on the DOE-NE website.

NNSA releases contractor performance evaluations

January 19, 2021, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The National Nuclear Security Administration last week released performance evaluation summaries on the effectiveness of its management and operating (M&O) contractors in meeting the agency’s expectations during fiscal year 2020.

The summaries feature assessment “scorecards,” as well as links to M&O contractor performance evaluation and measurement plans. Also included are specific contractor accomplishments, plus issues requiring attention.

NuScale SMR chosen for U.K. wind-nuclear hybrid

January 18, 2021, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

British hybrid clean energy company Shearwater Energy announced on January 15 that it is joining with U.S.-based NuScale Power to develop a hybrid project using wind energy and small modular reactor technology to produce power and green hydrogen.

According to news reports, the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on an initial project, which could be sited at the now-decommissioned Wylfa nuclear power station on the island of Anglesey, off the northwestern coast of Wales. No land agreements have been reached, however.

Biden taps Janet McCabe to serve as deputy at EPA

January 15, 2021, 12:17PMANS Nuclear Cafe


The incoming Biden administration plans to appoint Janet McCabe to serve as deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, The Hill reported early Friday.

McCabe previously served as the acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA for much of the Obama administration.

General Fusion boasts backing from Shopify, Amazon founders

January 15, 2021, 9:36AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Shopify founder Tobias Lütke is backing General Fusion with an undisclosed capital investment through his Thistledown Capital investment firm, the Canadian fusion technology firm announced January 14.

In an article published the same day by TechCrunch, Jonathan Shieber noted that a separate investments by Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, first made through his venture capital fund nearly a decade ago, means General Fusion “has the founders of the two biggest e-commerce companies in the Western world on its cap table.”

U.K. launches study into nuclear-powered space exploration

January 15, 2021, 6:58AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new research contract between the U.K. Space Agency and Rolls-Royce will see planetary scientists working together to explore nuclear power as an energy source for deep space missions in the decades to come. The effort is similar to one that the United States is undertaking through NASA.

"Space nuclear power and propulsion is a game-changing concept that could unlock future deep-space missions that take us to Mars and beyond," said Graham Turnock, chief executive of the U.K Space Agency, on January 12. "This study will help us understand the exciting potential of atomic-powered spacecraft, and whether this nascent technology could help us travel further and faster through space than ever before."

GAO: DOE could improve detection of contract fraud

January 14, 2021, 4:52PMANS Nuclear Cafe

In a report released yesterday, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Energy’s methods for gathering information on its fraud risks do not capture all of the contracting fraud risks it faces.

The report identified nine categories of contracting fraud schemes that occurred at the DOE from 2013 to 2019: billing schemes, payroll schemes, product quality, theft, contract progress schemes, misrepresentation of eligibility, bid-rigging, kickbacks and gratuities, and conflicts of interest.

While acknowledging that the DOE has taken some steps to demonstrate a commitment to combat fraud and assess its contracting fraud risks, the GAO said that the department’s methods capture “selected fraud risks—rather than all fraud risks—facing DOE programs.” For instance, according to the report, the DOE’s risk profiles for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 did not identify four of the nine fraud schemes.

Acting NNSA administrator to step down on Inauguration Day

January 14, 2021, 10:56AMANS Nuclear Cafe


The acting head of the National Nuclear Security Administration will resign January 20, Inauguration Day, according to a report in the Aiken (S.C.) Standard. William Bookless, who has more than four decades of experience in the nuclear security field, will also retire from federal service that day, the agency confirmed to the Standard.

The NNSA has made no official announcement or named a replacement for Bookless as of Thursday morning.

New year brings into force a new U.K.-EU nuclear pact

January 14, 2021, 6:57AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Along with the wider Trade and Cooperation Agreement it signed late last month with the European Union to address post-Brexit realities, the U.K. government concluded a stand-alone Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom. The NCA went into effect January 1.

EIA: Nuclear, coal will account for majority of U.S. generating capacity retirements in 2021

January 13, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest inventory of electric generators, 9.1 gigawatts (GW) of electric generating capacity is scheduled to retire in 2021.

In total, it appears that 30 plants (nuclear, coal, petroleum, and others) will be retired in 2021. Five nuclear reactors are included in the closure list—Indian Point-3, Byron (two units at the plant), and Dresden (two units at the plant). Those three plants produce 5.1 GW of power, accounting for more than half of the total capacity expected to be retired.

EPRI names Rita Baranwal as new VP of nuclear, CNO

January 12, 2021, 2:58PMANS Nuclear Cafe


The Electric Power Research Institute today announced Rita Baranwal as its new vice president of nuclear energy and chief nuclear officer. Baranwal succeeds Neil Wilmshurst, who was promoted to senior vice president of energy system resources in November.

Baranwal most recently served as the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for its Office of Nuclear Energy, where she managed the DOE's portfolio of nuclear research for existing and advanced reactors and new designs. Baranwal unexpectedly resigned from that position late last week.

Hitachi sunsets Horizon

January 12, 2021, 11:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Hitachi Ltd. plans to close Horizon Nuclear Power, its U.K. nuclear development subsidiary, early this spring, according to weekend news reports. Horizon is the firm behind Wylfa Newydd, the proposed nuclear new-build project in Wales.

On January 10, citing a story that appeared earlier that day in The Times, Yahoo reported that Hitachi will close Horizon by March 31—a move, Yahoo said, that “could scupper a sale of the [Wylfa Newydd] site, which has attracted interest from bidders, including a U.S. consortium of Bechtel, Southern Company, and Westinghouse, and dent [the] U.K.’s clean energy goals.”

However, a January 11 item on a Welsh online news service stated, “It is understood that if a sale of the site is not secured before Horizon shuts, the sale process will be continued by Hitachi.”

Searching for lost revenue from shut-down nuclear plants, NY law allows towns to assess waste storage

January 12, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Indian Point nuclear power plant. Photo: Entergy Nuclear

Communities across the United States where nuclear power plants have been shut down face huge gaps in tax revenues, sometimes in the tens of millions of dollars. States such as New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, and California are watching events in New York now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a new law that says cities can “assess the economic value of storing waste” on sites where nuclear plants once operated, as reported by Bloomberg.

Illinois AFL-CIO releases updated nuclear impacts report

January 11, 2021, 9:28AMANS Nuclear Cafe

In response to Exelon’s announcement of the premature closure of two Illinois nuclear power plants—Byron and Dresden—the Illinois AFL-CIO released an updated version of the Brattle Group’s Illinois Nuclear Impacts Report.

The report highlights the economic losses and environmental impacts Illinois’ and its local communities will face with the retirement of these plants, according to a January 5 article posted to the 23WIFR website.

Closing Duane Arnold puts Iowa at a disadvantage

January 7, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe


An op-ed published in The Gazette, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa–based newspaper, laments the early closure of the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant in 2020. Author David Osterberg, a former Iowa state legislator, contrasts what happened in Iowa with Illinois and three other states, whose governments "decided that heading off climate damage and the loss of good union jobs was worth keeping nuclear plants there alive." The economic calculation in Duane Arnold's case treated its electricity the same as that from coal or natural gas plants. However, Osterberg states that “when it comes to global warming and local air pollution, they aren’t the same.”

UGA profs call for coalition of civilian nuclear partners

January 6, 2021, 11:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The rising influence of Russia and China in the development, construction, and deployment of civilian nuclear reactors around the globe raises significant geopolitical challenges for the United States, according to “Twenty-First Century U.S. Nuclear Power: A National Security Imperative,” a recent paper by two University of Georgia (UGA) researchers.

The new normal?

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope that each of you found time to refresh and rejuvenate over the holidays, or at least have fun. Many indicators suggest that 2021 will be a better year than 2020, including a growing understanding of COVID-19 and its impacts and the availability of a vaccine. So many have suffered from job loss or even loss of businesses in 2020. Even for those of us fortunate enough to be healthy, gainfully employed, and able to work from anywhere thanks to Zoom and its competitors, uncertainty is still a challenging aspect of the pandemic.